Football's biggest traitors


Calhanoglu completes Inter switch from AC Milan

Hakan Calhanoglu announced his shock move from AC Milan to cross-town rival Inter this week, and the Turkey international is not the first, or the last star to do the unthinkable.


Calhanoglu signed a three-year deal at Inter after his contract expired at the Nerazzuri’s hated rival AC Milan. As expected, Inter’s tweet confirming the move was met with backlash, with the comments section littered with snake emojis.

Calhanoglu’s move may be inconceivable to the purists, but it has been done before. Spare your outrage for the other stars audacious enough to sign for their club’s most hated adversary.

Sol Campbell – Tottenham to Arsenal

Sol Campbell was adored at Tottenham having ascended the ranks from youth academy prodigy to club captain, with 255 Premier League appearances – but that all changed in 2001.

With the ambitious Englishman determined to win trophies he left Spurs in 2001, to join its biggest rival, Arsenal, in one of the most notorious acts of treachery in Premier League history.

Campbell - forever dubbed ‘judas’ by Spurs supporters - won Premier League titles and two FA Cups for the Gunners.

Robert Campbell – Celtic to Rangers

You have to go back 115 years to find a player brave enough to leave Celtic and go straight to Old Firm enemy Rangers.

The moments that made the Old Firm derby

Robert Campbell is the only player to have moved directly from one Glasgow giant to the other, when he ended a six-month stint at Celtic to join Rangers in 1906.

Campbell was far more settled in the blue half of Glasgow, scoring 56 goals in 211 appearances over a fruitful eight years at Rangers.

Johan Cruyff – Ajax to Feyenoord

He’s is widely revered as one of the greatest football minds of all-time, but even the great Johan Cruyff is guilty of a brain snap. After guiding his beloved Ajax to to the domestic and league cup double in 1983, the then-36 year-old was not offered a new deal.

Incensed by the decision, Johan Cruyff went for the jugular by joining Ajax’s biggest rival, Feyenoord.

Cruyff made a mockery of his former employer, guiding Feyenoord to its first league title in a decade, winning the KNVB cup and being crowned Dutch Player of the Year – ouch.

Luis Figo – Barcelona to Real Madrid

 A player leaving Barcelona to sign for Real Madrid? Pigs might fly... and when Luis Figo swapped Catalonia for the capitol in arguably the most audacious transfer in football, one literally did fly. Or at least its head did, from the stands during the Portuguese superstar's first El Clasico dressed in white. 

Figo committed football’s cardinal sin – leaving Barcelona for Real Madrid in 2000 and the Blaugrana faithful weren’t ready to forgive when Figo returned to the Camp Nou for El Clasico in 2002.

As predicted, fans hurled abuse, and a few beer cans at Figo. Nobody was expecting a pig’s head to tumble onto the Camp Nou pitch as the Portuguese star prepared to take a corner.

Robert Lewandowski – Borussia Dortmund to Bayern

Robert Lewandowski was integral to one of the most decorated periods in Dortmund’s history, as the starting striker during the glory days under Jurgen Klopp.

After winning two Bundesliga titles and reaching the Champions League final in 2013, the Poland skipper agreed to join Bayern Munich on a five-year deal.

Dortmund fans were dismayed by the move, considering he was one of Europe’s most sought-after strikers and not short of any suitors.

In hindsight, the move paid off for Lewandowski, with 294 goals and 17 trophies in 329 appearances for Bayern.

Mats Hummels also gets an honourable mention, having transferred between Bayern and Dortmund three times in 10 years between 2009 and 2019.

Oscar Ruggeri – BOCA Juniors to river plate

Wearing the wrong colours in Buenos Airies can have dire consequences in a city divided by Boca Juniors and River Plate, and Oscar Ruggeri will attest to the depth of hatred between these Superclasico foes.

Ruggeri made over 150 appearances for BOCA and with the club was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1984, the defender committed one of the most egregious acts of football treason by joining River Plate.

Boca fans did the unthinkable in search of retribution, as Ruggeri revealed to Marca: "When I went from Boca to River, they set fire to my house with my parents inside,"

Andrea Pirlo – Inter to AC Milan to Juventus

Pirlo is immune to the backlash that comes with joining a rival, as the ‘coolest man in football’ was able to leave two clubs consecutively to join a hated rival. Perhaps his immaculate dress sense and swagger on and off the pitch did the trick.

Pirlo left Inter Milan for AC Milan in 2001, before more famously being let go by Milan to join Juventus on a free in 2011 – an astronomical blunder from the Rossoneri.

The midfield metronome amassed 401 appearances for Milan, winning two Scudettos and UEFA Champions League titles in 10 years, before being released as a 32 year-old free agent.  

Former Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon summed the move up at the time, saying: “When Andrea told me that he was joining us, the first thing I thought was, ‘God exists.’”

“A player of his level and ability, not to mention that he was free, I think it was the signing of the century!”

Despite two consecutive acts of treachery, Pirlo has miraculously managed to remain a fan-favourite in Italy.

Hatem Ben Arfa – Lyon to Marseille

Hatem Ben Arfa has had more French clubs than the Bastille district, but the first transfer of his professional career is by far the most divisive when he swapped Lyon for Olimpico rival Marseille in 2008.

As a teenager, Ben Arfa was touted for greatness in Lyon as a standout in the youth academy with Real Madrid superstar Karim Benzema.

After four years with the first team, Ben Arfa’s standing at the club began to unravel, ending with a training ground scuffle with eventual Arsenal flop Sebastien Squillaci.

Lyon came out and declared Ben Arfa’s proposed move to Marseille was off in 2008, but when the fiery Frenchman refused to report to training, a last-minute deal between the two rival clubs was brokered.

Ben Arfa offered one more parting shot to Lyon and its fans, saying his former club ‘lacked class and was not a great team.’